Sun | Sep 15, 2019

JPS to roll out vehicle charging stations - AC Hotel tapped as one partner under national pilot programme

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2019 | 12:20 AMKarena Bennett/Business Reporter
In this 2016 photo, the headquarters of Jamaica Public Service Company is adorned with a banner designed to create the impression that the electric vehicle is being powered by JPS under the utility’s Re-Imagine campaign. JPS is now preparing to install electric charging stations at locations across Jamaica.
In this 2016 photo, the headquarters of Jamaica Public Service Company is adorned with a banner designed to create the impression that the electric vehicle is being powered by JPS under the utility’s Re-Imagine campaign. JPS is now preparing to install electric charging stations at locations across Jamaica.

Power utility Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, will be installing electric vehicle, or EV, charging stations at ­selected locations later this year as it gears up for a run on the market amid expectations that global EV sales will hit 2.6 million this year and Jamaican drivers will follow the trend.

Both new- and used-car importers across Jamaica have been responding to customer requests for hybrid plug-in cars, driving up supplies of the partial electric variant in the local market.

More recently, the distinctive EV design concepts for future electric fleets have JPS even more bullish on exploring opportunities to further diversify its revenue stream through full electric vehicle charging.

“JPS is taking the lead on an important initiative for Jamaica to live up its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is particularly important to us as an island state. To fast-track that, we have to join the global trend towards the electrification of transportation,” the power provider said in response to queries from the Financial Gleaner.

“By moving to build out the charging infrastructure, JPS is positioning Jamaica to say we are ready to participate in this industry.”

The roll-out under a pilot programme, which is expected to get under way in the last quarter of 2019, already has AC Hotel by Marriott on Lady Musgrave Road, New Kingston, earmarked for at least one electric vehicle charging station after JPS struck a deal with the deputy chairman and CEO of the ATL Automotive Group and the AC Hotel by Marriott, Adam Stewart.

The 220-room business-lifestyle hotel, which is soon to open, will feature a custom-designed charging station, which will allow electric and plug-in hybrid car owners free charging facilities within the property.

It’s expected that the ATL Group will provide charging services to clients of its full electric BMW, Audi and MINI vehicles supplied by its BMW Jamaica dealership, which sits next door the AC Hotel by Marriott.

JPS declined to name the other locations, but noted that each station in the national network will be within a 30-kilometre radius of each other. Full deployment of the EV charging network is expected by March 2020 under the pilot programme.

“This will create confidence for potential EV purchasers, accelerate the transition from internal combustion engines to EVs, thereby spurring vehicle sales, creating new valued-add business services, and reducing our carbon footprint by the electrification of the transportation sector,” the light and power company said.

JPS’s roll-out of the charging stations will be carried out through third-party arrangements, including fuel retailers. The light and power company will build, own and operate the charging stations on the properties of its partners in a bid to fast-track the development of the “full value chain of this new sector”.

The terms of the partnerships were not disclosed, making it unclear whether there would be a sharing of revenue generated from the charging stations or other means of compensation.

Data on the number of electric vehicles in Jamaica were not immediately available. More time was requested by responsible agencies to collate the data.

JPS says it is in dialogue with the Office of Utilities Regulation on an appropriate rate structure, which would determine the price motorists pay to charge their vehicles. The cost is likely to incorporate the physical infrastructure for the stations themselves, distribution and transmission upgrades.

Motorists could also find themselves digging deeper into their pockets if Jamaica adopts a rating system like that of Canada, which sees users of EV stations paying more during peak hours for electricity consumption, during 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Typically, it takes 15 minutes or more to charge a car.

“These charging stations will be easily accessible, convenient stops for time-extended charging and will provide our EV drivers with the opportunity to top up at competitive rates whenever travelling across the island,” said JPS.

“We anticipate a rate structure could be in place as early as last quarter 2019,” the utility said.

JPS’s deployment of the EV charging stations follows on calls from stakeholders in the automobile industry and JPS for the Government of Jamaica to reduce the import duty on electric vehicles. The import duty, which is calculated at more 60 per cent of the vehicle cost, was said to be prohibitive to the purchase of the environment-friendly vehicles.

“JPS has been actively collaborating with several stakeholders, inclusive of government representatives, to review the local EV market and propose recommendations to support the acceleration of growth of the sector,” JPS said.

“The results of these engagements have reassured the JPS team that there is significant interest across the stakeholder spectrum to address the existing barriers in a structured and holistic manner within the short term.”

Prior to the lobby for a reduction in the import bill, JPS sought to forge a deal with American electric carmaker Tesla Motors to drive up the demand for electric vehicles.

Around that time, Tesla was looking to introduce its Model 3 electric vehicle, an upgrade on the Tesla Model S, as well as the upgrade of the Nissan Leaf from a powertrain of 30 to 60 kilowatt-hours.

The upgraded Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf models in 2018 were built with powertrains of 100 kilowatt-hours. The higher the kWh rating, the more kilometres the car can carry and the longer the battery life.

Expectations are that by 2025, electric vehicles will boast powertrains of 100kWh to 300kWh.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com